Established in 2003 by the San Antonio River Authority (SARA), the San Antonio River Foundation (SARF) is a 501(c)(3) organization created to provide amenities and enhancements along the San Antonio River and its tributaries not funded by public monies. As part of its mandate, the Foundation raises funds for, invests in and manages public projects that provide opportunities for residents and city visitors to enjoy the natural beauty of the river, immerse themselves in its history and become thoughtful stewards of its future.
The San Antonio River Foundation’s ambitious projects range from creating unprecedented opportunities for education, recreation and interaction with nature along the river to initiating, funding, installing and maintaining exciting urban art projects by renowned artists from San Antonio, the U.S. and across the globe.
Since 2004, the Foundation’s focus has been the San Antonio River Improvements Project, one of the country’s most transformative public works projects. The 15-mile linear park project is divided into two “reaches.” The Museum Reach is a formerly inaccessible section of river that has been transformed into a beautifully landscaped waterway featuring a multitude of innovative public art installations and a flourishing business and residential community. The Historic Mission Reach is a habitat restoration, environmental education and health and wellness project with complimentary art installations that link the river to four of San Antonio’s five historic missions.
The Foundation’s current focus is on raising the funds to build Confluence Park on the Mission Reach - a cutting edge, environmentally sustainable, educational green space located in the heart of the southern urban core of San Antonio. Nowhere is SARF’s commitment to education more evident than through our investment in Confluence Park. In an effort to provide impactful learning activities through a large scale demonstration of sustainable building and land-use practices, Confluence Park will transform a former industrial laydown yard into a unique, interactive learning and recreational space for local residents, students and visitors. The entire park is envisioned as a life-sized, interactive teaching tool that will inspire a greater understanding of Texas ecotypes and their relationships with one another, encouraging students and adults alike to become more involved with the preservation and stewardship of our waterways.
Arts & Culture
The San Antonio River Foundation raised nearly $12 million in private funds to enhance the Museum Reach with the turning basin at the Pearl Brewery complex, increased access to notable cultural institutions, a restored pedestrian bridge, extensive native plant landscaping, expanded walkways, improved lighting and eleven large-scale works of public art created by local, national and internationally known artists. Art installations along the Museum Reach and Mission Reach of the river to date include a fairytale waterfall grotto, numerous street level railings, portals linking the river to four San Antonio missions, art benches that enable rest and contemplation, and underpass installations such as the iconic commuting F.I.S.H. Integrating artistic expression with the natural beauty of the river itself, both the Museum Reach and the Historic Mission Reach offer vibrant daytime strolls that become even more magical at night as the spark of artistic interpretation reflects off the river's rippling surface.
Environmental Restoration & Education
As a large a rapidly growing urbanized area, the San Antonio region faces common environmental issues encountered by large cities such as air and water pollution, industrial contaminants, flood control management and loss of natural habitats. Decades of growth and development along the river and its tributaries have contributed to the damage of local riverine and riparian ecosystems that in some cases have isolated the populace from the rivers and streams that originally brought settlers to the greater San Antonio area.
In October 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies involved in the Urban Waters Federal Partnership announced the designation of the San Antonio area as an Urban Waters location. The Partnership seeks to revitalize urban waters and the communities that surround them, transforming overlooked assets into treasured centerpieces and drivers of urban revival. The Museum Reach, the Historic Mission Reach and our landmark project, Confluence Park, are an outgrowth of this vision.
Community Health & Well-Being
Improving the San Antonio River is an ambitious project that is about more than simply changing the river’s channel and reengineering the river to its natural state. It’s also about creating the kinds of spaces along the river that will draw residents and visitors to this urban waterway in new ways.
Natural Recreation and Park Association’s article, Revitalizing Urban America Through Parks And Recreation reports: “Increased access to parks, green space, and recreation opportunities is essential to becoming a healthier nation and reducing unsustainable healthcare costs.”
Improvements along the San Antonio River support and enhance the efforts of those in San Antonio striving to create a healthier, happier and more prosperous community.
The Riverwalk pays a vital role in the health and well-being of San Antonio’s economy. Originally a WPA project that debuted in 1941, the Riverwalk has grown to a span of 15 miles.
The conservative estimate of $3.1 billion annual economic impact of the Riverwalk demonstrates the enormous return on the public investment that results from projects such as the Museum Reach and Mission Reach.
Additions funded through the San Antonio River Foundation have paved the way for continued economic growth. Given the river’s significant impact on our community, it is important for us to protect this important natural and economic resource by working together to preserve and enhance the San Antonio River Watershed.
In 2006, a study was commissioned to examine the economic impact and community development possibilities resulting from the $250 million San Antonio River Improvements Project (SARIP), in which the Foundation is a major participant. Among the study’s findings:
- The local tax base will increase significantly because of new land use, including residential, office, retail and hospitality
- More visitors spending more dollars are likely to be attracted by the linear river park extending the Riverwalk concept
- An improved quality of life also will attract new residents and strengthen our work force
- 10,000 new permanent jobs will be created at project “build-out.”
Put simply, the Riverwalk is a key component for selling San Antonio, whether to potential businesses, residents or visitors. It improves quality of life and is a foundational element for the city’s economic success.